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“Charlotte's Web”. That phrase has come to mean so much more than the title to a children's book. It has become a beacon of hope, especially to the parents of children suffering from Dervais Syndrome, that rare yet devastating seizure disorder suffered by one particular girl, Charlotte Fige, after whom the strain of cannabis which effectively treats the condition, was affectionately named. What makes it so notable is its chemical make-up. Whereas most available cannabis boasts high THC and extremely low CBD, “Charlotte's Web” contains less than 1% THC and over 20% CBD. Delta-9 THC is notorious for its psychoactive effects which, if one is to believe propaganda, vintage or current, are dangerous, especially to the developing nervous system of a young child. However, unrelenting seizures that no known pharmaceutical medication can prevent are without a doubt far more detrimental – so much so that a child afflicted with untreated Dervais syndrome typically suffers severe developmental delay. Charlotte's Web, it turns out, is a very effective treatment. So, here we have a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis that treats a devastating form of seizures afflicting children for which no other treatment is available. How can all the state and federal politicians who conveniently ignore the medical cannabis movement, ignore this? Well, they haven't.


In the last 2 years, twelve states, including North Carolina, have passed “CBD-only” laws permitting some form of high CBD (with naught-above-trace THC) cannabis-based product to be used in the treatment of childhood seizures, and more states are expected to follow suit. One one hand, this would seem like a good thing. A small number of seizure sufferers will benefit from such treatments, (at least until they reach adulthood, at which point they no longer qualify.) And let's not forget the reputation of all those state legislators that appeared like heartless rotters for denying children life-saving treatment. This kind of legislation gets them off the hook with a good deed, while affording them justification to further ignore the greater needs, science and political controversy of the medical cannabis movement itself. And here we uncover the other hand, slapping in the face all the other patients, the ones that don't readily benefit from CBD-only cannabis preparations. This kind of policy does more than just deny safe effective empowering treatment to folks suffering debilitating disease. It negatively effects their families, their friends, their co-workers, their communities, and it perpetuates the drug war's insane mentality of sanctioning violence to punish use of a harmless medicinal herb. Overall, in its potential of retarding fuller medical cannabis reform, CBD-only legislation may prove more harmful than nothing at all.


What's perhaps most curious and confusing about CBD-only laws is that they are essentially unnecessary. A growing number of legal hemp oil extract products are now available for online purchase throughout the country. Their lists of products, including tinctures, topical salves and flavored vaporizer systems, can ship legally to anywhere in the U.S. Such products are legal because their CBD “rich” oil is extracted from stems and stalks of industrial hemp plants and virtually free of THC. Of course, the makers of these supplements can't guarantee any kind of efficacy in the treatment of specific illnesses, like Dervais syndrome, and given the herbal supplement industry's recent track record, consumers may wisely wonder whether such non-psychoactive medicinals offer any active cannabinoid content at all. While I'm all for safe treatment options, I have yet to hear a medical cannabis patient voice satisfaction, let alone preference, for one of these products compared to their tried and tested THC containing herbal medicines.


General dissatisfaction with CBD-only health products no doubt stems from their failure to activate the human endocannabinoid the same way the unadulterated THC-containing herb does. We are only just beginning to understand the endocannabinoid system in terms of how it influences health, all its receptors and receptor agonists and how their plant analogues effect it. Multiple cannabinoid receptor types have been identified, each reacting to the various cannabinoids differently. CBD may act as an antagonist to a certain cannabinoid receptor (or portion thereof), which may mean little unless another cannabinoid receptor (or portion thereof), activated by THC, is turned on, the point being that cannabinoids don't just work in isolation, but rather in synergy with one another. In other words, THC and CBD do far more together than either one can do in isolation, and the same principle probably also applies to the other 60+ identified phytocannabinoids. Of course, this challenges the mainstream pharmaceutical paradigm which strives to isolate and concentrate chemicals to develop profitable patented medicines. The use of cannabis as a medicine predates modern medicine by (perhaps countless) millenia. Isn't it fascinating that cannabis (as is), even in this age of modern medicine, has proven to be such an effective whole plant medicine, and as such, a very profitable market to enter (in states allowing to such conduct?) Clearly, a medicine does not have to be tweaked in a lab to be effective or profitable. Is it any wonder to find its support growing by leaps and bounds across the country?


A poll from just last month reported that 69% of North Carolinians support the cause of medical cannabis, up from 57% just two years prior. One wonders how long state legislators will ignore these statistics, tossing its voters mere scraps like CBD-only legislation as a means of political cover. It will not do and is not enough. CBD-only products are fine options, so long as they are options (and they already were options.) We cannot exclude high THC containing products. We must not prohibit people from growing their own medicine. Research demonstrating the miraculous healing benefits of individual cannabinoids like CBD only supports the overall powerhouse medicine cannabis is and should not be used as justification to settle for less than the whole plant.


April 2016 Edit-Addendum: Now that a little over a year has passed since I posted this article, I should update my sentence concluding the 3rd paragraph.  A handful of patients have mentioned to me that their use of CBD-only preparations, either in isolation or in combination with herb and its preparations with full spectrum cannabinoid content (including THC), is helping treat their health conditions.  So, CBD-only medicine clearly offers some benefit for some, and it appears more products of higher reliability and efficacy are becoming available on the market.  However, in terms of efficacy alone most patients still prefer medical cannabis with full spectrum cannabinoid content.





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